By By Augustine Okezie, Katsina
Repentant bandits on Wednesday told Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari that some soldiers and policemen are fueling banditry and kidnapping in the state in return for monetary gain.
They warned that unless the security operatives stopped their activities and extortion of money and cattle from them, the situation in the state would not change.
The bandit groups spoke on Wednesday during a dialogue session with the governor at Gbagegi Primary School, Dankolo in Dandume local government area.
The repentant bandits who met with the governor were drawn from two of the local government areas in the state – Dandume and Sabuwa – worst affected by banditry.
The state has been under relentless banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping forcing Governor Masari to initiate the dialogue with bandits.
Leader of one group of bandits, Idris Yayande, told the governor that large scale extortion perpetrated by the security operatives had seriously undermined the efforts of government to address the security challenges.
He said: “Soldiers, policemen and other security agencies are fueling banditry, kidnapping and other heinous crimes through large scale extortion in return for their support to us. We have lost confidence in them. We prefer to work with the local vigilante.”
Corroborating him, leader of Volunteers (Yan-sakai), Lawal Tsoho, accused soldiers, policemen, other security agencies and some politicians in the state of working against the ongoing dialogue between the bandits and the state government because they are benefiting from banditry. He explained: “I have all evidence to prove my statement.”
He urged the urged the State to facilitate the release of their members arrested by security agencies and detained in various prisons across the country.
He said: “Some of our members were apprehended in villages across the state and detained for years without committing offence.”
Another repentant bandit, Idris Yayande, gave the “names of some of our members arrested and detained in different prisons across the state” and urged the government “to release them before the dialogue.”
He listed those in detention as: “Alhaji Lawal Bandu, Ibrahim Nabutamu, Sani Marji, Sani Zafi, Lawal Mairuwa and there are some of our children that were arrested by soldiers in layin-Mahuta last year; Juro, Ali, Adamu, Abdulrahman and since then nobody told us where they are and what happened to them.
“So, we are pleading with the state government to release them to us. We don’t have anybody in our custody now. We promised before that nobody will farm within this area but because of the dialogue we surrendered. If you hear of any attack it is not from us.”
Another repentant bandit, Haruna Mazge, blamed the prevailing security problem of the state on farmers “who blocked 70 per cent of the cattle routes.”
“Farmers in the state have blocked all cattle routes. If you look at our problem, consider that of farmers too,” he said.
Mazge called on other bandits who he said were terroriSing villages in the state to surrender their arms for the sustainability of peace.
He said: “This forest that we are hiding from is not beyond government’s power. Since the governor has forgiven us, we should not betray government in this dialogue by attacking another village in this state again.”
Masari assured residents of the state that the dialogue would bring peace to Katsina State, North-West and Nigeria, saying, “we believe that we have started well and there is nothing better than peace.”
The governor restated his commitment to rendering assistance to the Fulani living in the Forest and urged them to embrace dialogue and live peacefully with one another. He promised to rebuild the schools and other decayed infrastructure and address other requests.
• Culled from The Nation except the headline